Every day, somebody, somewhere on the planet, is acting as a bridge between Japan and the world. We bring you stories direct from artists and researchers working on location around the globe, who share their various experiences, ranging from sketches of street life, to profiles of people encountered on the job.
Vietnam has the most number of Japanese language learners in Southeast Asia after Indonesia and Thailand. "NIHONGO Partners*," a dispatch program conducted by the Japan Foundation Asia Center from 2014 that supports Japanese language education in secondary schools, has gained in experience and deepened the collaborations with local educational institutions. An "Intensive Training Program for Counterpart Teachers of the 'NIHONGO Partners'" targeting Vietnamese Japanese language teachers was held at the Japan Foundation Japanese-Language Institute, Urawa for two weeks from the end of July 2018. We interviewed the Vietnamese teachers who took part in this program and are accepting NIHONGO Partners and teaching Japanese language classes together.
The Japan Foundation, the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center, and the Embassy of Japan in Cuba jointly presented the "Going Away Closer: Japan-Cuba Contemporary Art Exhibition" in Havana, Cuba during March and April 2018. The exhibition was one of the events marking the 120th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to Cuba. It was later reconfigured in Japan for presentation at the Spiral Garden exhibition space in Tokyo from June 6-17, 2018.
"Hilatas--The Light that Guides You," a work of performing arts presented in DANCE DANCE ASIA--Crossing the Movements in Tokyo 2018, an event that ran from March 23 to 25, 2018, was created in Bangkok from the end of December 2017 to mid-January 2018. DANCE DANCE ASIA (DDA) is a project that generates works of performing arts with a focus on street dance. Street dance has been drawing considerable attention over these few years as a new means of expression in the performing arts. The project got started in 2014 with the goal of promoting exchange among Asian artists and creating new culture. "Hilatas--The Light that Guides You" is a short performance choreographed and directed by Vince Mendoza from the Philippines. Premiered at DDA December 2016 in Tokyo, the work was presented once again in the following April in Hanoi and Manila. Fabien Prioville, a French dancer/choreographer who previously performed in the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, joined as associate choreographer/director and dramaturg in 2018. The team will now present a long version of Hilatas. Three weeks after getting started with the creation, we interviewed Vince Mendoza and Fabien Prioville about their progress with the work, the message conveyed through the work, and the state of the dance arts in each country.
The Japan Foundation Prizes for Global Citizenship support organizations throughout Japan that conduct international cultural exchange activities. In fiscal 2017, three organizations were selected as recipients. Shibazono Danchi Neighborhood Association in the city of Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture focuses on exchange between Japanese residents and foreign residents. Nagomi Visit provides a service that matches foreign travelers with ordinary Japanese families who invite the travelers to their homes to share a meal. Koganecho Area Management Center has promoted community development through art in the Hatsunecho-Koganecho and Hinodecho area where illegal shops once lined the streets. Today, when the living environment has changed and multicultural coexistence is applauded, what kind of awareness of issues do these organizations have and what kinds of daily actions do they take? We talked to four key people involved in the operation of each organization.
Professor Emeritus Andrej Bekeš of the University of Ljubljana has long been a driving force for Japanese studies and Japanese language education in Slovenia and Europe and has contributed to the promotion of international mutual understanding. It was in recognition of his accomplishments over the course of many years that he was chosen as one of the recipients of the Japan Foundation Awards 2017. On October 20, 2017, Prof. Bekeš delivered a Japan Foundation Awards 2017 Commemorative Lecture at Sophia University, which was titled Japanese Studies as a Dialogue: A View from a Small Country. We have received this contribution from Prof. Bekeš that summarizes the topics raised in his lecture, which considered from a Slovenian perspective the potential for "dialogue" in today's globalized world where information flows can be distinctly one-sided.
The global community of "Japan specialists" is truly diverse, spanning scholars in the humanities and social sciences, practitioners in governments and think tanks, business and legal professionals, and the like. Members--both established and new--regularly trade stories about current events or share tips about professional opportunities at major academic conferences, corporate events, and embassy receptions. For the last four decades, Susan J. Pharr, Edwin O. Reischauer Professor of Japanese Politics and Director of the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations at Harvard University, and the Japan Foundation have been the cornerstones of this community. As such, it is only fitting that Professor Pharr was selected to receive the 2016 Japan Foundation Award, and it is my honor to discuss her commemorative lecture, "The Enigma of U.S.-Japan Relations: A 50-Year Perspective," delivered on October 21st, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan.
"The Power of Tradition, the Form of Artistry" is a program that seeks to rediscover the power of the traditions of Southeast Asia and Japan and explore the form of modern artistry. Launched in FY2016, the project has gotten off to a rousing start, bringing together an array of inspired minds, including scholars of Indonesia's traditional performing arts, theater producers, artists and magazine editors. Among them is someone who has been a whirlwind of activity in recent years―Yuichi Kinoshita, leader of the Kinoshita Kabuki Company. Kinoshita is a scholar of Japan's traditional performing arts and a vocal proponent of the possibilities for contemporizing Kabuki performance, while retaining a solid footing in the historical context. Throughout FY2016 he has sought to examine the "power of tradition and form of artistry" using diverse approaches, including fieldwork in Indonesia that was prefaced by several study group sessions, and a public talk with writer/poet Natsuki Ikezawa. In this interview Kinoshita reflects on his experiences over the past year and the various insights engendered, and speaks about the outlook for the coming year.
"NIHONGO Partners" is a program through which Japanese citizens are stationed in various parts of Asia for six to ten months as educational assistants for Japanese language teachers at local middle schools and high schools, and to introduce and share the wonderful aspects of Japanese culture with the community. The program has spread to a total of twelve countries and regions since it began in 2014, and has helped numerous Japanese participants to become acquainted with people and culture abroad.
Today, numerous exchange programs are available in Japan aimed at promoting mutual understanding with people throughout the world. One of these programs is the Japan Outreach Initiative run jointly by the Japan Foundation together with Laurasian Institution in the US, a program for the deployment of grass-roots Japan-US exchange coordinators. This program, also called JOI (joy), the abbreviation of the program name, deploys Japanese coordinators from Japan to the US for two weeks to promote deeper interest and understanding of Japan through exchange activities rooted in the local community. The program is entering its 15th year in 2017, having started in 2002. In October 2016, a symposium was held at the Japan Foundation Japanese-Language Institute, Urawa in commemoration of the 15th year, entitled "The Value of International Exchange in the Community". In this issue we will introduce the activities of the JOI coordinators and some of the statements by the panelists at the symposium.
The Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services organize the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), which measures and certifies the Japanese-language proficiency of those whose native language is not Japanese. Canadian figure skater Kevin Reynolds passed the N2 level of JLPT in December 2016. When he came to Japan in April 2017, he talked about how he encountered Japan and how he started studying its language.